Looking in the mirror about six weeks ago, I could have cried. There it was on the very top right of my scalp, a new bald spot. Generally speaking, I am not overly concerned about my hair looking perfect. Decent, of course; perfect, absolutely not. Nine times out of ten, it's up in a ponytail or some other type of clip before my first call of the day, so it doesn't need to be perfectly curled, straightened, etc. Yet, certain emotions can still show up at the thought of having middle-aged female hair loss or bald spots.
It has been about four years since I observed my first bald spot. After finding the most recent spot that morning, I examined the rest of my head to see if the other areas were still present or had grown in again. I'm thankful that, to date, when I have a bald spot, it tends to grow back in over time. I was relieved that morning that the other area where they tend to show up was not currently present. But I did observe that my hair overall looked thinner than I had ever seen it.
Going back to my mid-teens for a moment. At 15 years old, I also experienced significant hair loss to the extent that they cut about 9 inches of hair off to try to stop it. I didn't think to ask my mom until this most recent experience if I had bald spots back when I was losing hair. Sure enough, when I asked, she confirmed I had bald spots then, too. They thought it was related to a medication I was on back then. Knowing now what I didn't know then, I'm not convinced that it was the medication. But it's all valuable information to get to the heart of why it is happening now.
When I noticed them four years ago, I chalked it up to being hormonally based and didn't read too much into it. I was dealing with declining testosterone levels at the time, causing other health-related things that needed more focus (fatigue and mood).
This most recent experience pushed me to take a deeper dive into why it was happening, what I could do to minimize them in the future, and how I could regain growth in this most recent bald spot but overall hair fullness and growth.
Let's start by looking at a few common causes.
According to the American Thyroid Association, "An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease." Additionally, up to 60% of those people are unaware that they have anything going on.
When your thyroid is overactive or underactive, it can lead to hair loss for some individuals.
Several things can cause hormonal imbalances: Puberty, Pregnancy, Menopause, Chronic Stress, Steroids, Certain medications, and Auto-immune conditions. In turn, hormonal imbalances can have several effects, including hair loss.
We are made from all the unique genes of our parents, their parents, and their parents; well, you get the point. Your DNA/genes may be playing a role.
Alopecia is a disease that occurs when the immune system attacks hair follicles, in turn leading to hair loss. People with Psoriasis, thyroid disease, or vitiligo are more likely to get Alopecia.
Cancer treatment and other medications
Chemotherapy attacks rapidly growing cells, damaging hair follicles. Other medications that may lead to hair loss include retinoids, anti-depressants, anti-coagulants, anti-convulsants, beta-blockers, Anti-thyroid, tamoxifen, arthritis meds, Allopurinol, Levodopa, Bromocriptine.
Hair care and/or pulling on your hair
Constant tugging on your hair follicles can impact hair loss. This can be from pulling on your hair in any form, either as a habit or during your normal hair care rituals. For those of us who like wearing our hair tightly held back, this can also impact healthy hair growth and follicles.
There are a number of vitamin/mineral deficiencies that are shown to lead to hair loss. These include Biotin, Ferritin, Folic acid, Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Zinc, Iron, Selenium, Essential Fatty Acids, and Amino Acids.
According to several studies, stress and hair loss can be connected. This can be consistent with prolonged stress or stress that comes in the form of shock to the body, such as major surgery.
When I dove into all of these, it brought me so much clarity about what the potential root was of my bald spots and overall hair thinning. I hope it clarifies where yours may be stemming from. Keep in mind there may be more than one thing impacting you. For example, for me, I know mine is a combination:
Thyroid - I have no thyroid post-cancer, and my thyroid hormones/medications can create imbalances.
Hormones – Since hitting forty (and slightly before), my testosterone has significantly declined.
Stress – I had a major surgery (heart surgery) in March that caused massive physical and emotional stress. In addition, as a high performer, I know I have to take active measures to keep my stress level in a manageable place.
The constant tugging of my hair as I put it up.
So, now, what do we do about it?
Everyone's right answer to this question can vary. What works for one person may differ from what works for another. You may have some trial and error as you pinpoint what's happening. Be patient and know that adding more stress will not help the situation. Here is what has helped me most through the years. You will see my "right answers" are more natural. Working with your traditional doctor may lead you to other pharmaceutical-based options if you prefer that route. We won't be focusing on those options for today's blog.
Identify and deal with your physical and emotional stressors!
This one is HUGE, my friends. And it is far bigger than you losing hair or having bald spots.
First, for the physical, if you are experiencing abnormal physical changes or things impacting your everyday quality of life, such as fatigue, consistent or chronic pain, lack of energy, abnormal weight loss/gain, etc. Please don't ignore it! These are clues that your body needs something.
Ask yourself, what has changed that could be impacting me (food, water, sleep, etc.)?
Find and work with a practitioner who truly HEARS you and will help you get to the heart of what's happening. I highly recommend having a well-rounded team of doctors (both Western and natural medicine). I lean towards natural medicine (functional and holistic) first as their practices align closer with my health goals. Do what is most right for you!
For the emotional side, decide what part of the emotions are from the physical ailments you are experiencing (yes, these can be very intertwined).
Next, evaluate what is going on in each area of life that may be impacting your emotional regulation and balance. You can also ask yourself in the moment, "What is here for me right now emotionally?" Once you know what is causing the emotional heightened-ness or strain, ask yourself what needs to happen to resolve it. This may include working with a qualified coach, therapist, or other qualified practitioner.
One of the best ways to help naturally improve hair growth and quality is by properly fueling your body with the right nutrients!
Foods that may help fuel your body with the proper nutrients include eggs, berries, spinach, fatty fish, sweet potatoes, Avocados, Nuts, seeds, sweet peppers, beans, whole grains, yogurt, shrimp, oysters, and meat/protein.
Please keep in mind that everyone's body responds to food differently. As mentioned earlier, what works for one person may have an adverse impact on another person. For example, in some people, dairy and nuts can lead to hair loss, according to some studies. A food sensitivity test may help you determine what is best for you and your microbiome. You can also keep a food journal to track your physical responses to various foods or try a food-elimination diet.
Other foods to be cautious of regarding hair loss include sugar, refined carbohydrates, greasy foods, and carbonated drinks.
Get your hormones and thyroid levels checked.
I can't stress this one enough. Working with your qualified practitioner can give you the information needed to get your hormones more balanced and, in turn, potentially lead to better hair health. And, even more importantly, better overall health and quality of life.
This is another area I HIGHLY recommend checking into a functional or holistic practitioner in addition to your Western medicine practitioner. It's been my experience that they read and view things very differently. Most importantly, having diverse perspectives may help YOU to answer!
Hydration, Sleep, and Exercise
You may be reading this one thinking, "Jen, that's so basic!" Yes, these three basic things are so important not only to overall health but can each, individually or combined, impact hair health.
And, I don't know about you, but I would much rather increase my sleep or water to have better health than to take more invasive measures.
Essential Oils have played a significant role in hair regrowth when I find bald spots. Because of their sourcing and purity standards, my favorite brand is Doterra; however, there are many options in the market today. Stay aware of the quality and purity standards when looking at options.
The Essential oils I turn to most when it comes to hair loss are Tea tree Oil, Peppermint, Eucalyptus, and Geranium. After my regular hair care routine, I put them on the spot each morning. I also gently rub them into the rest of my scalp to help stimulate overall growth and hair health.
Other essential oils that may help include Cedarwood, clary sage, ylang-ylang, and rosemary.
Hair loss or bald spots can impact all of us in different ways; know there are options to help. In many cases, you can regain new hair growth.
GIANT hugs and love to all my friends reading today's post who, for whatever reason, have hair loss or baldness. It can bring many emotions and insecurities on top of the emotional recourse of whatever is causing hair loss or bald spots in the first place. Try not to allow this piece to define YOU or allow you to lose your beautiful spirit!
This information is not meant to replace any medical or emotional-based care, advice, direction, or treatment. Please always check with your desired medical practitioner before starting any new program.